Though Charlotte Mitchell is just 2 years old, her mother Elaine is already wondering where she’ll go to school—a decision that weighs more heavily on parents than ever before. For Houston-area families, that decision increasingly comes down to this: should they purchase a pricy home with great (and free) public schools, or live where mortgages are cheaper and invest in private education?
Mitchell and her husband chose the former, moving from Westchase to Katy this year so they could send Charlotte to well-regarded Nottingham Country Elementary. “If you’re in the city, it’s either you’re paying for private school or for a house. It’s a lot of money to do both for a regular person,” says Mitchell, whose neighbors in her old Westchase subdivision all sent their children to private schools rather than Ashford Elementary, the public school they were zoned to.
Private schools may not be cheap, but then again, neither are most homes in neighborhoods with highly desirable schools, meaning that many parents are going to pay either way—up front for a good school district or on the back end for private schools. The average listing price for a home in Katy is $357,309. Homes in Sugar Land (which is in the Fort Bend ISD) are $446,068, while Friendswood homes are going for $416,725.
Parents who find themselves between a rock and a hard place, unable to afford either a home in a good (a.k.a. pricy) school district or average private school costs, should remember that many offer scholarships and financial aid. At Beth Yeshurun Day School in Meyerland, for example, up to 60 percent of tuition costs can be covered by financial aid; at Cornerstone Christian Academy in Sugar Land, aid can cover nearly 50 percent of the costs (see our chart for a complete list).
And in Highlands, east of Houston, the esteemed Chinquapin Preparatory School that’s geared toward low-income middle and high school students offers each accepted pupil an estimated $13,500 scholarship. This money, which is privately funded by foundations, corporations, community members, churches and service groups, covers almost 93 percent of the school’s tuition. The rest is covered by the families, although at this creative institution, everyone pitches in. Even the kids.
“All students give back to the community through 45-minute chore time,” says Tina Barr, Chinquapin’s director of admissions. “Students do grounds work or keep the campus clean.”